Companies are rapidly realizing that connecting to the Internet is not only a fad but also a very definite business advantage for their
organization. However, with this advantage comes many pitfalls that can result in damages ranging from lost productivity all the way to sexual harassment lawsuits.

The Problems
Businesses are increasingly moving to high speed Internet access for their corporate needs. This makes the valid use of the Internet easy. It also makes it easier for employees to abuse their employer’s time through personal use of the Internet.

A survey of companies in our area found that relatively few companies actually have an acceptable use policy for company computers, the company network and the company’s Internet access. While employers may assume that their employees know better than to use the company’s time and resources for personal use, consider some disturbing facts:

  1. 30% – 40% of employee Internet use is non business-related
  2. a leading broker stated that 72% of its customers plan to buy or sell funds in the next six months, and 92% of these plan to do so during business hours
  3. 70% of all porn site traffic is during the workday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  4. a survey of 110 companies with 50-15,000 employees found that pornography was being accessed in at least 62% of them
  5. the Recording Industry Association of America has warned CEOs that their companies would be held responsible if employees used their company’s networks to download, install and share music and movies illegally
  6. online gambling and lottery sites, including the sites which entice employeesto play a game for a chance to win money, are increasing in prevalence which results in a further erosion of employee productivity

These are major issues which every business owner with Internet accessneeds to confront. To ignore these issues at the cost of lost productivity is not the least danger. With the problems of Internet pornography and illegal file sharing, there is the real danger that an employee’s actions on the Internet could result in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company by another employee who even accidentally sees the pornography or a lawsuit from RIAA against the company because an employee was swapping MP3s at work.

The Solutions
Yet, with the dangers of abuse existing, there are measures any company can take to reduce these risks.

The first is for the company to develop a clearly defined policy outlining the acceptable use by employees of company computers, the company’s network and resources, and the company’s Internet access.  Such a policy should include explicit detail of how you will handle any employee who is found guilty of downloading, storing, or distributing pornography, illegally copied music, videos or software and other items such as hate materials. With this in place, the employer has set a standard to which employees will be held accountable. (If you do not have an acceptable use policy, WingNET is able to provide samples in a low cost packet for your review and implementation.)

The second step is to determine who has access to company computers, networks and Internet access and limit or entirely restrict that access appropriately based on job function. There are numerous software and hardware solutions available to do this.

A third solution is to only use filtered Internet access. This is increasingly the choice for many businesses who want to show good faith and best effort on their part in preventing the kind of behavior that can invite damaging lawsuits. Filtered Internet access typically restricts the ability of individuals on the network to access gambling, hate, pornography and other materials which have no relevance to the workplace while still allowing access to those sites which are acceptable.

A fourth step which many companies are beginning to employ is that of logging and monitoring Internet access by their employees. Sometimes included in the filtering products or available as a standalone solution, this gives a company an added measure of accountability. With logging solutions in place, employees realize that their actions WILL be reviewed by upper management and that unproductive use of the Internet can/will result in disciplinary measures up to and including termination. This step is like putting the cat back into the house so the mice can no longer play.

The Questions on Filtering
Q. I’ve heard that filtering will really slow down my Internet access. Is this true?
A. Previous generations of filtering did have noticeable degradation of speed. However, newer servers with faster processors have cut that down dramatically. Further, WingNET maintains our own local filtering server using an award-winning product by a major supplier to corporations, schools and universities.

Q. I personally don’t see anything wrong with pornography. Why should I restrict it at my business?
A. Three words: lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits. Actually, this can be answered in many ways. Lost productivity is a killer to your business
if your employees are accessing porn. By refusing to address the problem, you are cultivating a culture which is geared toward treating
female employees as sexual objects, and this frankly does lend itself toward harassment charges against you and your company in our litigous society. Further, porn sites are notorious for being the gateway to adware, spyware, trojans and viruses which can destroy your network and your data. Do you want all of these real problems to be yours because of something that should be kept separate from a business environment anyway?

Q. I am a medical facility, and I often do Internet searches on subjects which may contain keywords which other filters
have blocked. Will your filtering prevent me from doing my research?
A. Our filter does differentiate between medical and non-medical sites.  For those times when a site is inadvertantly blocked, we can provide
you with the ability to quickly override the filter on such a site.

Q. How does this filter determine what is inappropriate?
A. The filter is maintained by a company which employs persons to rate and review potentially harmful websites based on their established
criteria. While this is always open to discussion as to what is harmful, the tendency to err on the side of caution is a good approach
in business.

Q. Is this filter perfect?
A. No. No filter is. However, we believe the implementation of filtered Internet access will not only address many of the productivity issues associated with Internet access in the workplace, but also show a good faith effort on your part as an employer to prevent the kinds of issues that could be used in a sexual harassment lawsuit against your company.

For more information, contact the WingNET Sales Department.

Sources for this article include information from and